This post was triggered by an interesting Twitter exchange yesterday evening, on the subject of All Women Shortlists (AWS). This practice ensures that particular seats have a female candidate (and in safe seats, a female MP) by making the selection shortlist all female. In the past it has been most widely used by the Labour party.
Proponents of AWS work from the idea that we need more women in parliament. They claim this is vital to ensuring 'female interests' are properly represented in parliament, and that change is not happening quickly enough. Therefore, they argue, AWS are needed to increase female representation to a more acceptable level, and when a 'critical mass' of women MPs is reached, it will become self-sustaining.
I am not a fan of AWS.
I have two objections. The first is as a women: I find it patronising. If I want to be an MP I am perfectly capable of competing with men on equal terms, and do not need special treatment because of my gender. I believe equality is about making things like gender, race and sexuality - whilst an important part of individual identities - irrelevant in political decision making. These groups are large: they are not homogenous, and nor do they have aligned interests.
My second objection is as a voter: I want the best person for the job. It is my belief that the best person for the job is the person that thinks most like me on important political issues (free market, individual liberty, small state), not the one who shares the most characteristics with me. I would always prefer a male who shares my political views to a female who does not. In the case of a man and a woman both sharing my views, I ought to choose who I think would be the most effective MP regardless of gender.
As I have written on this blog previously, I have a problem with feminist politics anyway. The very idea of 'women's issues' riles me. As a libertarian, I believe in equality. In my philosophy you must correctly define who is a citizen, therefore enjoying those equal rights, freedoms and liberties. Each must be addressed equally by the law, and each must make free decisions about their own life. Women should of course be full citizens (along with any other group characteristic one cares to identify, such as race or sexuality - very few people question that - the issue is with wanting special treatment.
You can follow me on Twitter @thinkemily.